Guild Wars 2 Interview Part 1: General Game & Living World

A few days ago we asked the Guild Wars 2 community for questions they’d like to put to ArenaNet developers at this year’s gamescom. We received an amazing response, and took the best of them with us to the convention to grill Matt Wuerffel and Devon Carver with. A lot of the questions asked after a new feature patch, which has since been announced, or an expansion. Since the developers didn’t want to comment on any questions regarding a possible expansion, we focussed on some other heavily requested topics instead: daily achievement cap, field of view, first-person view, precursor crafting, Super Adventure Box, the tengu and the barriers and immersion of the living world.

We also asked them questions regarding balance and competitive play; in the coming days, we’ll publish the second part of the interview, which covers these! You’ll find the interview below, as well as a transcript. Enjoy!

Interview Transcript

Daily achievement cap

GuildMag: A few months ago you added a hard-cap for the daily achievement points, and in a few days some people are going to hit that cap. What is the reasoning behind this cap and will you ever change it?

Matt Wuerffel: Yeah… so actually when we changed that, there was one player in the world that was very close to hitting the cap already, within a few days of when we made that change. Part of the reason why we made that change is when new people come into the game, and you have this ability to gain achievement points – every day, repeatably – it creates a very difficult position for new players coming in and saying: ‘Hey, I want to also try to compete’. And we wanted to both give an opportunity for people who have been playing the game to be ahead of the leaderboards, and also give new people coming into the game a chance to say: ‘Hey, this is still obtainable for me’. That is actually a smaller side of the reason for why we did it. I think the larger reason is we didn’t want to make doing your dailies a task that is required. They are things that are intended to be ‘Hey, as part of playing the game, you kind of accomplish these things just when you login and have a normal play session’ – and there are some rewards for doing that, and we had a lot of feedback. Even from people that were up in the top end of the leaderboards; that they felt like they were compelled or that they couldn’t miss a single day and that they had to go in and play dailies over and over again, and that is not really what Guild Wars 2 is – we want it to be a game where you can go in and you can play the game that you want to play, and engage in the way that you want to. And so, capping those was the decision that we made and it is possible that we extend that in the future, but at the moment we felt like: ‘Hey, there is definitely value to going in and playing dailies’, but we don’t want to force people in and feel like ‘Oh man, I have to go in and do these ten dailies’, and instead have it be something that’s fun and it is just part of your regular play experience.

Field of view

GuildMag: While you made some adjustments to the field of view in-game, some people are wondering if you’re ever going to give them more freedom to change it with a slider? For example, let people scale up the field of view like during boss fights?

Matt Wuerffel: So we have the ability to kind of override your camera during boss fights and provide you with a much broader view or let you zoom out further, and we try to be judicious with when we apply that and say ‘Hey, this is content where you really need to have this kind of perspective’. There is always a tension there because we spent a lot of time… and we’re very proud of the art that we do, and we have a fantastic art team and they are spending a lot of time making things look really, really good up close, so that’s part of the tension that we see and we want you to be immersed in the world and see all the hard work that they’re doing. I think we’re always experimenting with different things. In the dev client we have different things of tweaking the camera, and it is something that we are aware of, and we always are thinking about how do we improve the camera, how do we get players more control while still kind of having this space where you can see how pretty Guild Wars 2 is and… so, it is a balance. I would not rule anything out, but beyond saying that we are looking into camera, we don’t have anything specific that we could announce that we are doing with the camera.

First-person view

GuildMag: Similarly, some people are wondering what your stance is about adding a first-person view?

Matt Wuerffel: I think it falls into the realm of, you know, that is not something that we would rule out, we do play around a lot with different camera views and controls and I think even in the betas you’ve seen… like, some people found out ‘oh man, there is like, kind of an eagle view, a top-down camera view’. It is something that we explore and we think about how would this work in the game and what would it make the game feel like, and what does it add for players? But, off the record, there is nothing we can say at this time.

Devon Carver: Yeah, the one thing I would say is… the first person mode which we’ve had, we used to kind of toggle in and out of it on our dev client before, the biggest reason to stay away of it is that the sense of direction in combat is really important in our game, as well as positioning – positioning is really important. So, when you go into that first-person mode, you really completely lose the understanding of anything that is going on behind you, which can make our combat really difficult to understand and just difficult to play. There is some PvE scenarios where probably it wouldn’t be a big deal, but certainly in PvP or World versus World, it becomes very difficult to actually understand what is going on in combat. Which means that it really handicaps you as a player at that point; it makes it difficult to know what is going on and for that reason it is something we probably won’t be doing much work with, because we have really done a lot of work and continue to do a lot of work to make combat as readable and understandable as possible, and, like I said, direction and positionality is really important in our game, so not being able to say all that playable space is really valuable.

Precursor crafting

GuildMag: During your first year you’ve spoken about precursor crafting. Can you give any updates about that, and will we be seeing something like this during the upcoming period?

Devon Carver: So, we don’t really have anything to announce at this time, it is absolutely something that we’re, you know, fully aware of, and it is part of a system that we want to be making improvements upon so it’s something we’ve been putting a lot of thought into and then kind of been trying to figure out what the best solution to that problem is. But we don’t have anything that we can say right now about changes to the precursor system or the legendary system at all, but, like I said, it’s definitely something that is on our radar, it’s something we hope to be making improvements to and to have more to talk about sometime soon.

GuildMag: Soon?

Devon Carver: “Soon”.

Super Adventure Box

GuildMag: Some folks are really bummed that their parents took away their Super Adventure Box. Is there anything that you can tell them that will cheer them up for going back to school?

Devon Carver: You want to… you want to deliver the news?

Matt Wuerffel: Sure. Yeah, I mean, when we are talking about the Living World and the Living Story, you can see that we are moving towards a much more focused narrative, and that is focused on your relationship with Braham and Rox and some of the other characters that we have introduced. And that means that there is less, one, there is less space to do something where you kind of take a break and say: ‘And now for something completely different’ – which is what Super Adventure Box was. I think the other part of it is that we look very carefully at how much people played and how much people enjoyed certain portions of content that we put out, and so that also weighs into the factor of ‘Well, okay, what are we going to do, and when are we going to bring back things? What do we do, how much time do we put into different festivals, Halloween and Wintersday.’ And so, Super Adventure Box has a ton of people that were really excited about it, and it also has that difficulty of, it is something that’s really different from Guild Wars 2 in a lot of ways, and it doesn’t easily fit into the narrative structure of Living World. And so, I think it would be very unlikely that you would see it as part of a Living World season release, as to whether or not we come back to it, whether or not in some other form, you know, I can’t really say, I don’t know how likely that is and that is really all I can say about it. We know that there are a ton of people that really enjoyed it, and we had a lot of fun playing portions of it, but it’s difficult to fit in within the narrative structure that we have now and I think that makes it very much less likely that it will appear in a Living World season going forward.

GuildMag: But will it come back after the current season?

Matt Wuerffel: We can’t really comment about what our long term plans are for the game, and so, you know, it is a similar answer if you ask me what was gonna happen in the upcoming episodes of season 2. Like, I really can’t say. But it is a very much different game in a lot of ways than Guild Wars 2 – a game within a game – and we’re trying to focus already in World v. World and PvP and PvE and Fractals. There are lots of systems that we have and we want to focus first on getting those to a state where we’re really happy with them and we’re fully supporting them and then we could look into… ‘All right, now that we have those up to a quality that we’re really happy with and fans are really happy with, what other projects can we take on, and what things can we look at doing?

The tengu

GuildMag: We know that the tengu have been hiding behind the wall, waiting for the time to come out. Can you tell us anything about them? How they experienced the recent disasters and are we going to see them peeking behind the door soon?

Devon Carver: Whether or not we will see them soon is certainly not something I can say. I mean, we try to keep the tengu involved in a lot of the things that we are doing. In terms of the way that the tengu would experience any of the recent events, it is going to be very similar to how they experience a lot of things. You know, they’ve kind of hold themselves up in their city to keep themselves safe. So you see them come out every once in a while. They’re certainly aware of some of the stuff that has been going on, if not seeing the effects at the same level as everyone else is. That being said, you can definitely keep your eyes open, and I’m sure there will pop up more in the future, but more specifics than that I can’t really give you. I don’t know if Matt has anything else?

Matt Wuerffel: I can’t add much else other than, we know that people are excited about the tengu and you can see some reactions to the things that have been going on in the world. Typically those reactions don’t have a lot of empathy because they have hidden themselves up behind the wall and are not very interested in allowing people to come in and take shelter there, but definitely stay tuned and it’s something that… it’s a thread that we are intentionally exploring and so it is all of the overall story of Tyria and it will have payouts as we go on.

Barriers of the Living World

GuildMag: How happy in general are you with the way the Living World allows you to expand the Guild Wars 2 universe? Are you able to do everything you want, or are you also walking against things that just cannot be done with the current system?

Matt Wuerffel: Yes, so I’d say in general we have been really happy with the Living World, particularly looking at Season 2 versus Season 1. You can see we made a lot of strides. We put some systems in place that help us to engage with players who maybe had to take a break because life happened, and now they can come back in and kind of easily re-engage with the Living World through the Living World Journal. I would say, it is clearly a learning experience for us and we are still figuring out what kinds of things we can build in the Living World and what kinds of things we need a little bit longer scope or timeframe to do, but it is pretty exciting to see some of the epic stuff towards the end of Season 1, and we learned a lot from that, and we learned a lot from the feedback from fans on what kinds of things they like to see, what kind of things they want to see. We’re not there yet, there’s obviously a lot that we still have to learn and get better, but that’s one of the things we really pride ourselves on as a studio, is the opportunity to iterate on content and figure out how exactly we want to tell these stories and what kind of stories we can tell in the Living World and what kind of things we need to do as part of the Feature Pack.

I mean, I can’t say that we haven’t found anything that we just can’t do. Sometimes it’s a matter of schedule and scope, and obviously there are a lot of things that we are doing as a studio at the same time and so kind of prioritizing how we do some of that stuff is always a difficult decision. But we try to leave a lot of room for the teams to take on kind of the high level goals and challenges that are presented by Colin and the directors, and then they can approach solving that problem in a lot of different ways. And that is part of the reason why in Season 1 you saw so many different kinds of content coming out. Sometimes it was Fractals, sometimes it was reworking a dungeon, and a lot of those things are options for the team to say ‘Hey, this is how we want to approach solving this problem. So there are definitely things that are difficult to do, primarily because of scope and timeframe, but I don’t know that I’d say we found anything that we just can’t flat out do. I think we found things that would make more sense to move into Feature Packs, things that kind of effect the game as a whole, as big general system are difficult to do in the Living World seasons, and it makes more sense to separate them out into their own kind of delivery.

Immersion and the Living World

GuildMag: With the Living World you’re also changing the landscape of certain maps and instances, for example with the vines of Mordremoth. At the same time you still have people playing their personal story and coming across these changes. Some people worry that this will be immersion breaking – how are you going to combat that, if at all?

Matt Wuerffel: So there is kind of two answers to that question. One is that with the release of the Living World Journal there is more of an established timeline of when things happen and so you can see very clearly, and we are trying to communicate very clearly ‘Hey, this is the order in which things happen’, and if you choose to play these things out of order, then you might see things that… there is a little immersion breaking, but we feel giving you the opportunity to go back and play content is really important. The other side of that is that we have to think about when we’re building this content and we are aware of some of those difficulties and some of the spots where it is going to create kind of, if you are in the open world it looks one way, and when you’re playing through an instance it looks a different way. We went through that evaluation when we destroyed Lion’s Arch and… it’s an interesting question and I’m not sure where we are exactly going to end up on. But it is something that we think about a lot and we try to engage with that question before we decide exactly what we are doing because we know it is important for us to have a world that feels alive and exciting and lots of things are changing, but it is also important for us to keep the world immersive and… so it’s a balance and I think we’ll get better at that as we go along and build things, but definitely an interesting question and a hard one to take on.

GuildMag: Is it possible to use the original associated map for a story step instead of using the altered map?

Matt Wuerffel: Yeah, that gets into some of the technical side of it, which I won’t really dive into, but there are times for us when that is possible to do and there are times when it’s difficult for us to do. I think what you’ve seen with the Living World Season 2, which is that we are releasing a new space, and that new space is permanent and there are episodes that are build that go through that map and tell the story of that map. That is much more the direction that we’re kind of leading and the solution that we came up to with that…, for that problem. So, Season 1 had a lot of things that were out in the world and we were kind of experimenting with like ‘what does this do to immersion and how does this feel?’ And Season 2 is a little bit more judicious of when it does that kind of stuff. Definitely want to still have that epic feeling and that the world is growing, but we’re learning that ‘oh, we can build content in a way that supports both a very rich, immersing storytelling, and also kind of changes the face of Tyria.’

GuildMag: Are you able to keep a map for a specific personal story step?

Matt Wuerffel: Technically, I think that is possible. That gets into a lot of questions about space and bandwidth and a bunch of other stuff. So there are a lot of factors when we are making decisions like that and it is kind of a case-by-case basis in terms of whether or not we want to try and do something like that and whether or not we want to not do that. I guess the thing that I would say that we try to focus on, how are we going to come up with a solution to that problem in the style that we built the content? So that we actually don’t have to make that choice, we don’t have to say ‘Oh, we’re going to do this way or that way, and each of them has downsides’, and instead find a way to build content that sidesteps that problem and just provides content that people can play through without ever experiencing that disconnect.

GuildMag: Will you be updating the older personal story line steps to match the changes in the world?

Matt Wuerffel: I don’t know the answer to that. It’s definitely something we talk about and we say ‘hey, if we’re going to go into a map that has existing story content, how much depth does that accumulate and is there a better place for us to do that? Is there a spot on the new map where we can tell that story without having to rework a bunch of the old stuff to match up.’ That said, you know, what we did with Lion’s Arch, we also did a lot of work to make some of the story steps to actually make sense within the context of ‘Now Lion’s Arch is destroyed’. So it’s possible that we go back and do that, but it’s definitely a question of, given the scope and the time frame that the team has, what do they think is going to be the most effective story and content that they can build?

The second part of this interview will be released later this week – make sure you’re following our Twitter and Facebook pages to be the first to find out when! We’d also like to extend a big thanks to Matt Wuerffel and Devon Carver to answering the above questions for us, and the ones to follow!

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